Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Shooting Reshapes Liberals' Apology for 1939 Refusal of Ship of Jewish Refugees

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Shooting Reshapes Liberals' Apology for 1939 Refusal of Ship of Jewish Refugees

Article excerpt

Feds rework apology for Holocaust incident

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OTTAWA - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's apology for a decision to close Canada's doors to Jewish refugees almost 80 years ago must include a bold statement against modern anti-Semitism or the carefully orchestrated event will be a failure, Canadian Jewish leaders say.

Trudeau is to apologize next week for a 1939 decision to reject an asylum request from more than 900 German Jews aboard the MS St. Louis ocean liner, which resulted in more than 250 of them dying at the hands of the Nazis.

The apology has been months in the making and was scheduled before a gunman killed 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue -- the deadliest attack on Jews in American history.

The shooting has sparked countrywide vigils and forced a re-examination of the prime minister's plans. Trudeau's office says the text of the apology will be changed to reflect the Pittsburgh killings.

Steve McDonald, the director of policy with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said his group hopes the apology will spur wider talk about how to address anti-Semitism "regardless of our background."

Trudeau mentioned that idea in a letter to Jewish leaders on the weekend. He wrote about speaking out against anti-Semitism and said he would "call on Canadians to do the same."

The latest figures on hate crimes from Statistics Canada show the Jewish population was the most frequent target of religiously motivated hate crimes in 2016.

"It is not enough to apologize for the past. There must be a pathway forward to deal with these incidents of anti-Semitism," said Michael Mostyn, chief executive of B'nai Brith Canada.

B'nai Brith and other groups have provided the Liberals with ideas on how to tackle hate speech, including messages targeting Jews. Trudeau could rely on those as part of what Yael Halevi-Wise suggested would be a way to deal with extreme hate speech that often spills over into violence.

"This apology, it doesn't mean anything unless there is a commitment to protecting the living," said Halevi-Wise, the chair of the Jewish studies department at McGill University. …

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